The government should wait for the COVID-19 vaccination program to start before considering further easing lockdown measures in the rest of the country, particularly in Metro Manila, a senator suggested on Tuesday.
Speaking to CNN Philippines, Senate Majority Leader Migz Zubiri said this may be the “safer avenue to take” before placing the whole country under the more relaxed modified general community quarantine — a proposal earlier floated by the National Economic Development Authority.
“I think we need to do that first, let’s wait for the vaccines to come,” Zubiri said in an interview with The Source. “What we’re saying is the only way to bring back the economy is through the vaccination program. We really have to focus on that.”
“[When] we’ve already vaccinated how many million Filipinos, then maybe we can start with the MGCQ. But I think that’s the safer avenue to take,” he added.
Acting NEDA chief Karl Chua proposed the shift to MGCQ during a televised meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte and other government officials on Monday, citing the need for the country to recover from huge economic losses. He said further extending the lockdown would only worsen hunger and poverty.
Zubiri, for his part, noted possible challenges in opening up Metro Manila, which remains under GCQ, especially with the capital region being “one of the most densely populated areas in the world.”
“Lahat ng mga kabataan ay makakalabas na. Ang tao makakaikot na freely (All children would be able to go out. Everyone can go out freely)… and you know sometimes we do forget our rules,” the senator argued. “So it’s very difficult at this point in time, with the new variants in place pa.”
Meanwhile, Zubiri also expressed concern over the absence of signed supply agreements with vaccine manufacturers, but acknowledged there are challenges when it comes to the global supply of the vaccines.
Cinema reopening ‘dangerous’
The legislator likewise reiterated his stance against the reopening of cinemas in GCQ areas, labeling it as a “dangerous” move especially with the presence of a more transmissible variant in the country.
“It could be a super spreader event, why? Because you’re in an enclosed space for more than an hour,” Zubiri said, noting that it takes only one person to infect dozens of other moviegoers.
“I think we shouldn’t take chances like that, [it’s] very difficult to control,” he pointed out.
The Inter-Agency Task Force earlier postponed its directive on the reopening of cinemas in Metro Manila following pushback from mayors, who have expressed concern over the possible spread of the virus in these settings. IATF spokesperson Harry Roque said the earliest cinemas can reopen in Metro Manila is on March 1 — if the plan pushes through.